2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder: Is this the Boxster for you?

The Boxster Spyder is back. And like the version offered in 2011 and 2012, the new one was created using the same familiar, physics-driven formula for turning a street car into a track car: add power, remove weight.

But when Porsche invited us to drive the newest version of its mid-engine magician on the Big Island of Hawaii -- a volcanic land mass as short on racetracks as it is long on lava rock -- we suspected we’d be meeting a Boxster Spyder more well-rounded than its predecessor.

What we didn’t expect, actually, was that we’d leave the island with a new favorite Boxster ever.

Four Biggest Differences

The 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder is distinguished in the lineup by four key features, spanning the full range from form to function:

911 Engine  Lurking behind the Spyder’s seats is a 375-horsepower version of the 3.8-liter flat-six found in the Porsche 911 Carrera S and Cayman GT4. Porsche says it will launch the Boxster Spyder to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds on its way to an impressive top speed of 180 mph. That’s 0.4 seconds and 6 mph better than the previous range-topper, the Boxster GTS.

Streamliners  With the top down, the new Boxster Spyder is most prominently distinguished by the same rear “humps” that defined the first Boxster Spyder. But Porsche now calls them streamliners instead of humps, which makes them a much more compelling conversation point.

Manual top  Visually unique and lighter in weight, the Spyder’s manually-operated roof has both performance and aesthetic advantages. But let’s be real: the distinctive look is a far more impactful differentiator than the 24-pound weight reduction resulting from the lack of motor and other weight-saving measures.

Breaking 80  Last but far from least, the Boxster Spyder’s $83,000 starting sticker price makes it the priciest Boxster ever. That’s $30,000 higher than the base Boxster, and $7,500 more than the next closest in price, the Boxster GTS. And with a wide range of compelling upgrades, Porsche is more than willing to take you and your Boxster Spyder well into six-figure territory.

Driving It

If you want to know what heaven sounds like, get your hands on a 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder, stow the top, find a section of road cut through a mountain and walled on both sides, drop a couple gears, and floor it to redline. You’ll be enveloped in a sound that’s at once primal and otherworldly, but otherwise indescribable.

If you’re also overcome with a calming sense of peace, you’ve overdone it.

That soundtrack is almost as big a draw as the Spyder’s added power. The new range-topper outmuscles the Boxster S by 60 horsepower and 0.5 seconds in a sprint to 60 mph, but we’ve long appreciated the Boxster lineup’s adherence to relatively modest motive force. It’s always hard to refuse an extra helping of horsepower, but keep in mind that pushing a Boxster Spyder to its limits on public roads requires you to drive further into the red-and-blue zone.

Beyond the enhanced sound and fury, the Boxster Spyder drives very much like a Boxster. The shift lever is shorter, the steering wheel is smaller and the steering ratio is quicker, but the Spyder rides on the same sport suspension available on the base Boxster and delivers a similar spectrum of ride comfort and handling finesse. We never ran short on stability during our most heated exchanges with the Big Island’s best driving roads, but older asphalt didn’t rattle the fillings from our head.

While we count its daily driver abilities among the Boxster Spyder’s strengths, mid-engine extremists looking to set personal-best lap times or take home checkered flags should probably move the party indoors to the Cayman GT4, the race-readiest version of the Boxster’s fixed-roof cousin.

Our only Boxster Spyder nitpicks are the same that apply broadly to the Boxster in general. While increased efficiency is never a bad thing, the introduction of electric power steering in the latest-generation Boxster has subtly diminished the quality of connection between driver, car and road. And while the flat-six engines are nothing short of magical at the upper end of the rev range, some of us would trade a tiny bit of that magic for more alacrity down low.

With that said, the mid-engine, purpose-built Boxster is still one of the most engaging, most balanced, most fun-to-drive vehicles ever conceived. And the 2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder isn’t just the newest twist, it’s the new alpha dog.

Ten Tidbits

1. The Boxster Spyder tips the scales at just 2,899 pounds, but that’s without a radio or air conditioning (both of which can be added as no-cost options)

2. More weight-saving measures: The trunk lid is aluminum and the rear window is plastic

3. If the front and rear fascias look familiar, it’s because they were taken from the Cayman GT4

4. Sorry, Porsche Doppelkupplung fans, the Spyder is strictly 6-speed manual

5. The Boxster Spyder offers more than 100 available upgrades and add-ons (we counted), highlights of which include carbon-fiber seats for $4,730, a Burmester sound system for $6,730 and ceramic brakes for $7,400

6. The Boxster Spyder’s more direct steering is lifted from the 911 Turbo, while the larger brakes have been taken from the 911 Carrera S

7. The front wheels are 8.5 inches wide, the back wheels are 10.5 inches wide, and all four are 20 inches in diameter

8. The Spyder’s unique top can be deployed in under a minute, accommodates automatic car washes, and can withstand the car’s top speed of 180 mph. By contrast, the top on the previous-gen Boxster Spyder required 15 steps and three minutes to deploy, didn’t allow the car to be taken through an automatic car wash, and came with a recommended top speed of just 124 mph.

9. The standard Sport Chrono package includes dynamic transmission mounts that minimize internal movement and deliver even greater stability. Porsche Torque Vectoring combines a mechanical differential with strategic brake interventions to further improve cornering ability and exit speeds.

10. The Spyder’s weight-saving top surely makes for a louder top-up experience compared to other Boxsters, but we can’t offer a thorough report because we haven’t yet driven the car with the roof deployed for two reasons: 1) The Boxster Spyder is even more open air-oriented than the rest of the lineup and the wrong car altogether for any shopper concerned about top-up noise, plus 2) we were concerned that driving a convertible with the top up in gorgeous, sunny Hawaii might be a ticketable offense. Surely it should be.

The Boxster for You?

It’s an exciting addition to the lineup, but the Boxster Spyder is far from the only Boxster worth considering. Each of today’s five Boxster variants offers a unique combination of price, performance and features, but every one of them is among the purest, most balanced sports cars the world has ever known. Which is right for you? Figuring it out for yourself is part of the fun.

Porsche Boxster  More power and more features are always tempting, but even a basic Boxster is more fun to drive than 99% of the cars on the road and costs no more than a well-equipped Ford Explorer.

Starting MSRP: $53,095 (all prices including $995 destination)
Horsepower: 265 hp at 6700 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.5 seconds
Top speed: 164 mph
Engine: 2.7-liter flat six-cylinder
Curb weight: 2,888 pounds
City/highway fuel economy: 20/30 mpg

Porsche Boxster Black Edition  Mechanically similar to the base Boxster, the Black Edition combines blackout styling with a variety of added features for a mere $7,000 up-charge.

Starting MSRP: $60,095
All other specs same as Boxster above

Porsche Boxster S  The Boxster’s 2.7-liter boxer engine is replaced by a 3.4-liter version in the Boxster S, improving 0-60 mph times from 5.5 to 4.8 seconds, and top speed from 164 to 173 mph.

Starting MSRP: $64,895
Horsepower: 315 hp at 6700 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.8 seconds
Top speed: 173 mph
Engine: 3.4-liter flat six-cylinder
Curb weight: 2,910 pounds
City/highway fuel economy: 20/28 mpg

Porsche Boxster GTS  “Built specifically for maximum driving pleasure,” according to Porsche, the GTS is indeed a more powerful, more focused Boxster with a higher level of performance-oriented standard equipment.

Starting MSRP: $75,595
Horsepower: 330 hp at 6700 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 174 mph
Engine: 3.4-liter flat six-cylinder
Curb weight: 2,965 pounds
City/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg

Porsche Boxster Spyder  The newest, quickest, fastest, most powerful, most distinctive, most expensive Boxster in the lineup. If you’re into that kind of thing.

Starting MSRP: $83,095
Horsepower: 375 hp at 6700 rpm
0 - 60 mph: 4.3 seconds
Top speed: 180 mph
Engine: 3.8-liter flat six-cylinder
Curb weight: 2,899 pounds
City/highway fuel economy: 18/24 mpg

 

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